September 21, 2012

A Burly Eccentric, an Aging Rogue and a Star Swooping in for the Kill


There are artists from whom we expect novelty, development. We want to see what they’ll come up with next, how they’ll grow. Soledad Barrio is not that kind. What we want from her is more of the same. And what’s amazing is how she always delivers.

This great flamenco dancer is the star of the Noche Flamenca company, now in a two-week run at the Joyce Theater. That’s longer than the troupe’s Joyce debut last year, though still shorter than previous seasons in smaller houses.

At the midsize Joyce, you lose some intimacy, the sense of being included in the conversation among the always excellent guitarists, singers and dancers. But the ensemble numbers look better, and without giving in to gimmicks, the whole production is more of a show.

“La Plaza,” choreographed by Noche Flamenca’s artistic director, Martín Santangelo, simply and effectively introduces everyone in the 12-member troupe except Ms. Barrio. The musical arrangement and the rearranging of bodies and cafe chairs work together to toggle attention between individuals and the group. (Here, and throughout the program, S. Benjamin Farrar’s tasteful lighting helps.)

Mr. Santangelo’s group dance “Quebradas” (“Broken”) tries for more drama. Sounding a favorite theme of women being neglected by men, the piece gets too literal, but it has a nice shape, some remarkable side-by-side footwork for Ms. Barrio and Alejandro Granados, and a resonant ending, with the women gently slapping their thighs.

Mr. Granados is burly and rough-edged. During his solo turn, he lifts his legs high, not gracefully, and when he puts a foot down, he really puts it down. That makes him vivid and forceful, but Mr. Granados is also consistently eccentric. On Wednesday he treated his jacket as if it were a dangerous animal.

Juan Ogalla, the other male soloist, is an aging rogue with an appealing smirk. He’s fond of slowly raising his arms overhead and of whipping his head around. The unaccompanied cadenza of his “Alegrías” is the program’s high point of flamenco technique, his rapid feet tickling the stage in many places.

The artistic peaks of any Noche Flamenca show involve Ms. Barrio. At the start of her “Mansa Lluvia” (“The Gentle Rain”), she poses, as if resting against a window on a rainy day. The mood reveals how soft she can be, how light and quick.

But her smile is pinched. Through that mouth, sweetness comes out tart. It’s up to three of the company’s other women (Sol La Argentinita, Juana La Chispa and Marina Elana) to finish the number with feminine charms and flirtation.

As usual, Ms. Barrio’s final solo is the main event. It’s called “Soledad” (as it was last year), playing on the meaning of her first name (“solitude” or “loneliness”) by isolating her in a circle of light. Her wrists circle, her torso circles, she traces tightening circles on the ground. The male singers and guitarists surround her, and she addresses each one.

Like a bird of prey, she drifts and then dives, though it’s hard to say whether she’s going deeper with each pass or higher. When she reaches out with a gesture that says, “I caught it,” what she seizes is inside you.

Noche Flamenca continues through Sept. 30 at the Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, at 19th Street, Chelsea; (212) 242-0800,